Actions

Work Header

Black Holes And Revelations

Work Text:

{far away from the memories of the people who care if I live or die}

"So he's treating you okay?"

Your eyes are closed, and for a second it's so easy to imagine a certain someone else in the driver's seat, interrogating you about your personal life and drumming their fingers against the steering wheel. You give Nick a reassuring little nod. "We're good. Everything's...good."

"Good, huh?" He chews on his bottom lip thoughtfully, like he's deciding whether to accept this answer or not. For whatever reason, you tend to allow Nick to get away with lines of questioning that would earn almost anyone else a sharp refusal followed by a stubborn silence. Maybe it's that disarming little brother quality he has, how you don't feel like you have to put on a front, how everything is straightforward and there's not that hidden layer of something that complicated your relationship with Elliot. Whatever it is, you're not going to pour your heart out to him, but as friends and partners go you could do much, much worse.

"Yeah. We have our bad days and our better ones. He's been very. Patient is probably the best way to put it, I guess."

"He damn well better be."

"Nick..."

"Okay, okay. I won't start," he says, reaching for his coffee as he rolls to a stop at a red light. "Anyway, don't tell him I said this, but he's actually not as much of a douchebag as I thought he was."

"Wow. And how did he earn such high praise?"

He tells you about the unspoken truce they had called while you were missing, how Brian never left the station and how he did his best to keep Nick's spirits up when they were chasing one false lead after another. It's difficult for you anytime someone brings up the events of those days, hearing about these people you care so deeply for having to endure this emotional hell you put them through, but the image Nick paints is enough to give you some comfort. You can easily picture Brian there, determined to be the one who gives everyone else the strength to keep going no matter how much he might have been crumbling inside. "Man, I feel like an asshole for saying this, but I was surprised by how much he cared. I underestimated him, I guess. Like, of course I knew he was gonna be going out of his fucking mind. We all were. But I didn't realize how serious he was, you know?"

"Serious how?"

"I don't even remember what we were talking about, it kinda came out of nowhere. But he's like yeah, she's it, she's my endgame."

You lift your head up from where you had been leaning against the headrest, and your first instinct is to tell Nick he must have misunderstood, that the stress had to be causing him to hear things that weren't there. "Oh?"

"Oh yeah." He goes on to say that when he called Brian from the ambulance, "I thought he was gonna start fucking crying on me. Shit, I thought I was going to cry too, but poor dude couldn't even talk. All I could understand was when he said 'just tell her I love her,' and then I don't even know what the hell else he was saying."

Oh. You blink several times, trying to absorb this new information while your lungs seem to struggle to get oxygen to your brain and your stomach feels like it's leapt into your chest. "I...don't remember that. I still don't remember anything that happened until we got to the hospital."

"Yeah, you were pretty out of it. I told you but I don't think you were really catching on, because all you said was for me to call Elliot. Which I did, I even left a message, but nothing," he says in a way which clearly indicates how he feels about that particular subject.

"He was in Mexico," you explain, getting a look of surprise in response. "I, uh. He sent flowers a week or two later."

"Nice way to make up for lost time there. What a dick move."

"What was he supposed to do? The whole thing wasn't exactly a secret; it'd be more of a dick move if I hadn't heard from him at all," and since when did you start defending him?

He shrugs, eyebrows raised suspiciously. "Your call, not mine. Is there something going on there?"

"In his head, maybe," and you are saved from having to say any more as the radio squawks to life, alerting you to a drunk and disorderly two blocks away. Time to get to work.

But you would think about it later on, what Nick had told you about Brian, and wonder if it was nothing more than a relic of a time long past. People do and say things impulsively when emotional overload sets in- you see it every day. It doesn't mean there's any truth behind it. But even if it was genuine, if Brian had meant what he said, you don't want this. You want something real. The kind of love that hits you for the first time when you're channel surfing late at night, and somewhere there between infomercials and sitcoms you realize that this is the person you can't live without. Not the kind that's brought on in a haze of fear and what-ifs and empty arms and then gets tucked away when the fog lifts and the long road back to normalcy comes into view. Not the kind that was meant for someone else, for the woman who used to be in his head and his heart and his bed. The one who looks like you, who used to be you, but was abruptly replaced and now exists only in memories and photographs.

The one who's sure as hell not coming back.

{our hopes and expectations
black holes and revelations}

It always comes down to the fucking hookers.

No, it had never been a dream of yours to sit with your partner and listen to your boyfriend doing God knows what with God knows who. They hadn't warned you about these kinds of occupational hazards at the academy, the kind when you feel like you've suddenly landed in the middle of a 2 AM Cinemax movie or the world's strangest sex dream. In fact, the only reason you knew it wasn't a dream was because if it had been, Elliot would have shown up and you would've given him head while Nick watched or something equally outlandish.

(You refuse to think about how Elliot would have wholeheartedly approved of that dream.)

In any case, it was awkward for everyone involved, except maybe the hooker. When you looked back on it, you realized that might have been a prime time to excuse yourself from the situation and go on a coffee run. In the moment, though, you were too busy fighting the urge to put your hands over Nick's ears for the same reason why you could candidly discuss severed penises with Elliot, but you would change the channel if a sex scene came up on the TV while he was around. It was a boundary thing- at least, that's probably what your therapist would say.

So there you sat, boundaries be damned, and then all of a sudden you're choking back a laugh because holy shit is Brian ever laying it on thick. You think you qualify as somewhat of an expert as to what he actually sounds like in the heat of the moment, and this is becoming more than a bit overdone. Your suspicion is that he is doing this for your benefit (or maybe just to irritate you, who knows), but there is no way to let Nick in on the joke without sharing way too much about your personal life, so you fake a cough to cover up your laughter and rest your head against the window to avoid having to look him in the face.

You were hopeful that once the night was over and you were back at the house, everyone could just forget it and return to their regularly scheduled lives. What were you thinking? That clearly would have been far too simple, and you should have figured out by now that everything in your life that can get complicated, will. Brian comes running in, and of course he wants to talk about it. You're rescued by Tucker- something you never thought you'd have the occasion to say- only to have him make another stupid crack at Brian's expense, and it takes all the remaining self restraint you have to refrain from telling him to go fuck himself. When will everyone give it a rest? Yeah, Brian fucked up, but to hear people talk about it, you would think he's the first person in the history of the NYPD to have done so. The two of you had discussed it all months ago and as far as you were concerned, it was a non-issue, so you don't know why everyone else couldn't seem to let it die.

And then there was Brian himself, who would never be accused of knowing when to let anything die. The second you had made it back to your desk, he was right behind you, hovering like some sort of human-shaped drone. "Hey. Liv."

"Drop it," you say without bothering to find out what he wants, and how many times before had you sat at that very desk and said those very words to Elliot?

"I just don't want you to be angry at me. C'mon."

"Do I look angry?"

"Is...that a trick question?" he asks nervously. "Because you kinda do."

"If I'm angry with you about anything, it's that you won't shut up." You pick up a stack of papers and act like you're intently focused on sorting through them.

"I don't want there to be secrets between us," he says so earnestly that it would almost be endearing under any other circumstance. "So I'm just gonna put it all out on the table. I got a handjob from a hooker. There you go! I said it."

"Jesus christ, Bri, this isn't Taxicab Confessions," you say, and you can see in your peripheral vision that Nick is watching this whole scene with amusement. He is probably not the only one.

"See, I knew you were upset about it."

"No. I'm not. On my list of things to be upset about, this is so far down at the bottom that it's not even worth mentioning."

"Do you really mean that?" he asks, brow furrowed.

"Brian, don't you think we have bigger problems?!" Nick finally catches on to the telepathic SOS you've been trying to send him and calls for you to come take a look at this fax he got, so you excuse yourself before you can notice that Brian has an expression on his face like he’s been slapped. "We're done talking about this."

Nick touches your arm gently, voice lowered. "Is he bothering you?"

"He means well." Your hands go to your hair, smoothing it into a loose ponytail. "Now give me something to pretend to work on."

Nick comes back a while later, putting his head down on the desk across from you so that no one can see him talking. "Liv, I can't believe I'm saying this, but please go spend some quality time with your man. Anything. I can't stand watching him sit there looking like you drop kicked his puppy anymore."

You sneak a glance over your shoulder and decide that yes, Nick's description of Brian's mood seemed accurate. "Goddamnit, I already told him I don't give a fuck."

"No, you told him you have bigger problems."

"We do, but...it's complicated. And there's nothing we're going to solve right here and now, trust me."

Nick looks thoughtful. "You know what Oprah says all the time?"

"Huh? I had no idea you were such a fan."

"I'm not. Maria was," he says, and there's something in his eyes when he says her name that's all too familiar to you. "But she says that forgiveness isn't for the other person. It's something you do for yourself."

"And this helps me how?"

"You don't need to forgive him, but you're not giving him the chance to forgive himself. He's trying to do what he thinks is the right thing and you won't let him. If he's gonna feel better by groveling or what the hell ever, then play along until he gets it out of his system. Throw the poor guy a bone."

Somehow you have the feeling that this is not what Oprah meant when she gave out this little jewel of advice. "So what, I should go rip him a new one and then say okay, apology accepted, you're forgiven?"

"I'd enjoy watching that. But you've got the chance to get some slave labor out of this, Liv! Make him work for it."

"Oprah did not say that."

"I had no idea you were such a fan," he said, repeating your earlier remark with a sly grin. "So go talk to him, and then both of you get your asses out of here and get some sleep."

You give him a little smile of thanks as you stand up, watching as he goes over to Amanda's desk where she is working quietly, minding her own business. He reaches down for a bagel she has sitting to one side of her computer, taking a large bite out of it and laughing as she squeals in protest. It gets tiring to watch their elaborate third graders in love courtship ritual and sometimes you can't help but wish they'd just fuck and be done with it. You had said as much to Munch once, but his only response was to look at you from over the rim of his glasses and shake his head, saying 'Oh, how quickly we forget.'

Brian is slouched against the wall, arms crossed. You nod toward the empty interrogation room, because Nick has already gotten enough free entertainment from the Brian and Olivia Show for one day, and you pull a chair over to the other side of the table so you're sitting side by side. Eye contact is overrated. "Nick thinks I should read you the riot act."

"Nick can go fuck himself."

As you prop your elbows up on the table, you massage your temples with your fingers and think about how much you could use a drink right about now. When you look sideways at Brian, who is tapping anxiously on the metal chair leg, you remember what made you decide you should convince him to take this dubious gig in the first place. It's the same reason why you spend every night pretending to be this perfect housewife, and it’s why you spend an inordinate amount of time on your daily ritual of applying about half a dozen various products that all promise to be the best on the market at getting rid of scars. There's very little in life these days that you can control, so when an opportunity comes along, you're going to cling to it with everything you have in you.

You can't fix your 'bigger problems', but if he needs to feel like he's forgiven for something, you guess you can give him that much right now. And after all, how many seemingly irrational things has he done for you in the last month alone? "Brian. Hon. I'm not angry, I swear to you."

"You have to know that I would never-"

"I do know. And I get it. Was I thrilled about the whole thing? No. God no, but I do get it and as long as you come back home to me in one piece, I can deal with the rest."

"You mean that?"

"Yes," you promise, putting your hand on top of his. "I could bitch you out if it's going to make you feel better, but...maybe I do enough of that already."

"Hey, no, fine by me. We'll find something else to fight about soon enough anyway."

You trade hesitant smiles, both happy to come to an agreement even if all you can agree on is that you argue too much. Your fingers are laced together and when you see him start to visibly relax, your curiosity gets the better of you, even though you know it kills the cat and you've already used up at least eight of your lives by now. "Nick and I were talking about you tonight, you know."

"No, and I don't think I wanna know what the hell you girls were saying," he says, snickering at his own joke.

"He said that he was grateful for how you helped him out while I was, uh. Gone. That the two of you actually had some civil conversations."

"Yeah, we were...alright, I guess. He was less of a douchebag than usual."

"Funny, he said the same thing about you," and for a detective, you are having an awfully hard time subtly trawling for information. "He told me you had a good talk for once."

"Eh it was nothing much, really. Just trying to pass the time, get my mind off of. Things."

"Things," you repeat, nodding in agreement while your expression remains purposely unreadable. "I remember him telling me what he promised you, that you would be the first person he called as soon he knew I was...as soon as he was with me, because he knew you were going crazy. But I don't remember anything after that, not until we got to the hospital. Hope he kept his word."

This has officially become the world's worst fishing expedition, but Brian seems blissfully unaware of what you're trying to get at. "Yeah, he did."

"Good," you say, and your stomach feels hollow all of a sudden but your face doesn't change, not a millimeter, not even to blink. You shouldn't have gone looking, not for something you didn't expect to find, and there will be time to regret it later but not now, not here. "I guess we should get going, huh?"

"Hey, um."

His voice sounds uneasy and you wonder if you had given away more than you intended. "Yeah?"

"When you said that you had your list of things to be upset about. We never really talked about what happened yesterday night." He was right. You had both held out for some time, pretending that you were asleep and not listening for the slightest sign of life from the other, but you managed to outlast him and made sure you had crept out of the apartment before he could wake up.

"No, we didn't."

"Is that on the list?" When you hesitate in responding, he sighs. "Do you want to talk about it?"

You shake your head. "Yes it is and no I don't."

"Liv. I never meant to..."

"I know, I know. It's o-" You can hear the words without him having to say them: it's not forever, it's not about you. But it is forever, because the person he loved is dead. You're always going to be this new Olivia with the same scars inside and out. Can't undo what's been done or unsee what's been seen. "Do you remember what you said the other day? About needing to be not okay sometimes?"

"Yeah, of course."

"Because it's not okay, and I’m not either, but I know I will be. We will be- so I'm okay with not being completely okay for now, I think." You link your arm with his, chin hooked over his shoulder, and you sit in silence this way for several minutes. It's really your only choice, this being not okay. There's no way to try and talk about any of the infamous 'bigger' issues without unraveling the entire complicated web, this intricate tangle of sex and love and scars and memories and fears and an uncertain future. He's still here and that will have to do for tonight. "Let's go home."

"Good thinking. I'm fucking beat, man," he says with a yawn.

"Ohh no, you're not getting off that easy. You still owe me and I'm definitely expecting breakfast. Eggs would be nice."

It might not be okay, but it's enough.

{you electrify my life
let's conspire to reignite}

The phone is ringing.

You finally made it home, had a few drinks in rapid succession, and then collapsed into bed...only to be woken up what seemed like five minutes later by a call from a number you didn't recognize. "Benson," you try to answer, but it comes out something like "Behhh."

"Are you drunk at 10:30 in the morning?" replies a voice that you recognize all too well.

"Sleeping!"

"Sleeping it off, you mean."

Next to you, Brian makes an irritated noise and rolls over. You know you should probably get up so you won't disturb him, but you don't feel particularly coordinated right now and besides, this conversation is all but over. "Elliot. What."

"I didn't think you were supposed to be working nights. I wouldn't have called if I thought you were asleep."

"Yeah, well, I was. What do you want," you say, too tired to make it into a question.

"I need to see you."

"No."

"I forgot how sweet you are when you first wake up," he says, and they really need to invent a phone that will deliver painful electric shocks to the person on the other end. "You can't just leave things the way you did the other day."

"Sure I can."

"You ran out on me. Again."

"Yup, I did." Brian mumbles something that sounds like 'hang up'. "And this isn’t a good time to talk, so-"

"Is that him?"

You may be groggy and mildly intoxicated, but you are conscious enough to be offended because seriously, how many people does he think you've been in bed with lately? "Fuck you. Leave me alone."

"Which one is it? Cause I think I'd rather fuck you."

"Oh, you made a joke. Funny," you say scornfully. It had been a long time since double entendres and flirtatious comments had flown freely between the two of you, and when that ended you were barely able to tolerate existing in the same universe as one another, so you had no idea what he thought he was accomplishing now when he had that mean edge to his voice and that ring on his finger and when all the roads that led you back to each other were dead ends.

"Why are you so afraid of me?"

"Excuse me?"

Alerted by the tone of your voice, Brian finally opens his eyes and looks in your direction. "Is he bothering you?"

"It's fine, hon, he's just saying goodbye," you reassure him, still speaking into the phone in the hope that Elliot will take the hint and excuse himself gracefully.

He doesn’t. "If you're not afraid, then why won't you talk to me?"

You take a deep breath and grit your teeth because he is deliberately trying to provoke you and you can't let on that it's working. He's well aware that you never back down from a challenge, and he must think you won't pass up a chance to prove that he's wrong and you're not actually afraid of him.

He is wrong. You're terrified of him on one level and supremely annoyed with him on another. "Elliot, just...go." Go back to your happy family and your perfect life without me, you think. Go complain to your therapist about how much it burns you up that you can't railroad me into wanting you.

"You're really going to take the easy way out now?" he asks, but he doesn't get an answer before Brian reaches over and grabs the phone from your hand.

"Goodbye," he says with a loud groan, muttering 'asshat' before tossing the phone toward the foot of the bed.

Normally you would be irate with him, because you are a big girl and completely capable of handling your ex-partner turned stalker on your own without your boyfriend's interference. But you are tired and a little bit drunk and all you can think about is how royally pissed Elliot must be right now, so you just snicker and close your eyes, letting the thought of him sulking like a kid who's been sent to his room without dessert lull you back to sleep.

{and so I'll run but not too far
in case you chase me}

You chalked it up to just seeing things.

After all, what would Elliot be doing at Munch's retirement party? It had occurred to you earlier in the week that he was probably invited, but you assumed the odds of him actually showing up were minuscule. He wasn't a fan of these sorts of occasions to begin with, and you knew he hadn't exactly kept in touch with anyone, save for you and a handful of people from other precincts. He certainly wasn't going to get dressed up and drag his ass all the way out here for stilted small talk and uncomfortable reunions.

And yet when you got up to go over to the bar, there it was. From across the crowded restaurant you could see a familiar figure, a man on the other side of the room with his back turned to you as he talked with someone from Homicide. You squinted, trying to get a better look, but then the sea of people shifted and you lost sight of him.

Deciding it must have been some random lookalike, you shrug it off and continue on to get your drinks. By the time you get back to your table it's all but forgotten in between catching up with old acquaintances and keeping a watchful eye on Brian and Nick to make sure they were playing nicely. Fortunately for you, Nick is fully occupied with trying to impress Amanda, and Brian seems to be behaving himself as well. You think this might be the elusive 'fun' that you've heard about, where normal people go out and socialize and it doesn't end with panicked getaways or tears and hostile words. It's really quite nice and you can see why it came so highly recommended.

Your pleasant, drama-free evening begins to unravel with a call from an unfamiliar number. When you get a message asking you to call back, you elbow Nick and tell him that the two of you are going to have to cut the party short. You had spent all morning with a vic who couldn't decide if she wanted to talk or not, and in the end you had given her your cell number with a promise that she could contact you any time, day or night, if she changed her mind.

"This has to be Samantha," you explain to Nick as you try to type out a reply and walk at the same time. "I want to get over there ASAP before she clams up on us again."

"Nah, you just like to ruin my fun," he jokes good-naturedly. Once you're outside and away from the noise of the restaurant, you try the number and frown when no one answers.

"Damnit, now she's not picking up?" You are about to leave a voicemail when you catch a glimpse of someone at the other end of the block, and it all suddenly falls into place, that Samantha is definitely not your mystery caller. "That motherfucking..."

Nick watches you with suspicion as two more texts pop up.

«still sure you're not afraid of me?»

«lets see you prove it»

"Liv? What's wrong?"

You look over again and there Elliot stands on the corner, giving you a cocky grin when he sees your eyes land on him, and you have had enough. The tug of war between you could go on forever, but you're not going to let it. Time to end this ridiculous game once and for all. "Okay Amaro, it’s your time to shine. I need a favor from you."

{cause this is how it goes, baby
I get angry at your words and I go home
but you won't call after me
cause I'll be back before you know}